A lot of people have been searching about Baie Jacotet on the Internet, ever since the Prime Minister of Mauritius, P. K. Jugnauth, mentioned the Baie Jacotet Submarine Cable Landing Station, while answering on allegations made against him by the former CEO of Mauritius Telecom, S. Singh.
Last Tuesday, the Prime Minister of Mauritius, P. K. Jugnauth, was replying to a question asked by a Member of Parliament, E. Juman, during the first session of the parliamentary debate.
P. K. Jugnauth confirmed that the Security Division of his office had requested the former CEO of Mauritius Telecom, S. Singh, to extend all necessary assistance to a three-member technical team from India who would field a survey mission at the South Africa Far East (SAFE) Submarine Landing Station at Baie Jacotet, Bel Ombre.
P. K. Jugnauth stated that in the morning of 15 April 2022, he was informed that Mauritius Telecom had not made the necessary arrangements for the team to have access at the Landing Station. Therefore, he telephoned the former CEO of Mauritius Telecom, S. Singh, and asked him to make arrangements for the survey to be carried out.
The SAFE Submarine Cable Landing Station at Baie Jacotet was declared a restricted area through Government Notice 183 of 2004. The decision was taken by the cabinet on 8 October 2004 and the SAFE SCLS at Baie Jacotet has been a restricted area since 11 November 2004 in accordance with Section 13B of the Police Act.
Section 13B of the Police Act defines the meaning of a restricted area in Mauritius. It states that —
(1) The Commissioner may, where he considers it necessary or expedient in the interest of public safety or public order, order that special measures be taken to control the movement and conduct of persons in any area, and, by Order, declare that area to be a restricted area. (2) (a) The Commissioner may issue to a person a permit authorising him to enter and leave a restricted area. (b) The permit may be issued subject to such conditions as the Commissioner thinks fit to impose and may be cancelled.
Until now, neither S. Singh nor P. K. Jugnauth, has provided any information regarding the conditions set by the Commissioner of Police in order to access the SAFE Submarine Cable Landing Station.
Thus, we do not know whether the staff personnel of Mauritius Telecom can access the landing station at any day and any time, whether they need to inform the Commissioner of Police of such access, whether they can bring people who are not personnel of Mauritius Telecom along with them, whether the identity of the people should be disclosed to the Commissioner of Police, etc.
30 June 2022 — Sherry Singh resigns as CEO of Mauritius Telecom.
1 July 2022 — Nawaz Noorbux of Téléplus, Défi Media, interviews Sherry Singh. The latter discloses the reason behind his resignation. He says that the Prime Minister, P. K. Jugnauth had phoned him to ask him to do something which is illegal, against the interests of Mauritius Telecom, against the interests of the citizens of Mauritius, against the country and against certain friendly states. Nawaz asks him what is it exactly. Singh says that P. K. Jugnauth phoned him to give him instructions to allow a third-party to install equipments in Mauritius Telecom which will sniff all incoming and outgoing Internet traffic in Mauritius.
6 July 2022 — P. K. Jugnauth confirms that he had a phone conversation with the S. Singh and that he had asked him to give a technical team access to the Baie Jacotet Landing Station. He says that at no moment during the conversation he mentioned a sniffing equipment. While answering a journalist regarding the third-party, he says that there was a matter of security and that there was a need for the survey. He says that in Mauritius we do not have the technicians that can do such a survey, or even if there are, he decided to hire foreign technicians. He says that he spoke to the Prime Minister of India, N. Modi, to get a team of technicians that can do the survey.
12 July 2022 — Prime Minister, P. K. Jugnauth, while replying to a question in the National Assembly, confirms that he has lodged a police complaint against S. Singh.
12 July 2022 — Axcel Chenney of l'express interviews Sherry Singh who promised further revelations. Singh described chronologically what led to his resignation. Axcel says that the Prime Minister has denied any attempt for surveillance and questions Singh that he is saying the opposite. Singh confirms that it was about surveillance. Singh also confirms that the technical team did several « interventions » in the network and that he has proof. He does not show any proof during the interview. He says he will provide all proofs to the authorities when the time comes.
S. Moonesamy replied to my tweet about this article and indicated that companies who have to maintain their equipment at the Baie Jacotet SCLS have to designate the persons who should be granted access to the site and the identity of the persons would be in a log book.
The companies who have to maintain their equipment designates the persons who should be granted access to the site. The identity of the visitors would be in the log book. pic.twitter.com/W4z9bhUTpl— S Moonesamy (@sminmu) July 16, 2022
The document that S. Moonesamy referred to in his tweet is Mauritius Telecom's Master Agreement for Inter-Connection at the Submarine Cable Landing Station.
An explanatory memorandum to Cross-Connection at the Submarine Cable Landing Station (SCLS), published by the Information & Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA) provides details about the Baie Jacotet SCLS and includes a copy of Mauritius Telecom's Master Agreement.
Page 13 of the document includes a site plan of the Baie Jacotet SCLS.
The site plan provides a layout of the building and which section the building contains Consortium's infrastructure and which section contains Mauritius Telecom's infrastructure.
In an interview given to Sunday Times, R. Valayden, the Chief Editor of Capital Media provided some details about the persons who had access to the Baie Jacotet SCLS on 15 April. Details that no other media outlet has published so far. I quote what he said in the interview —
Selon mes recoupements, vers 12h58, trois véhicules sont arrivés. La première voiture, une Mercedes, était conduite par Girish Guddoy, ‘Chief Technical Officer’ (CTO) de MT. Le ‘Manager’ de MT était au volant de la deuxième voiture, une Hyundai. Et la dernière voiture, une Honda Vezel, avait, à son bord, trois ressortissants étrangers. Les agents de la SMF ont été informés par le CTO que tous les occupants du véhicule sont des employés de MT et que leur visite ne devait pas figurer sur le registre. Les deux cadres de MT ont ensuite introduit les étrangers dans la salle des opérations. Le CTO de MT a demandé au personnel sur place de se retirer et a prononcé les mots « Top Secret ». Les techniciens étrangers n’ont pas accédé au câble SAFE mais se sont concentrés sur le panel en utilisant un logiciel médiateur (‘middleware’). L’intervention sur chaque connexion nécessite d’abord un court-circuitage occasionnant une panne de 30 secondes lors de la connexion du logiciel et idem lors de la déconnexion. Le ballotage de 60 secondes est inévitablement répercuté dans les rapports techniques. L’équipe est partie vers 19h15. C’est le ‘Manager’, un des cadres les plus aguerris de MT, qui a assisté les techniciens étrangers alors que son chef hiérarchique se rongeait les ongles à l’extérieur.
R. Valayden, for obvious reasons, did not reveal his source of information, but one could imagine that it must be coming from one of the MT employees present during the visit.
R. Valayden said that S. Singh had both moral and legal responsibilities to refuse such a request coming from the Prime Minister, since Singh had all executive powers to do so.
He also casts doubts on the claims of S. Singh, saying that in spite of Singh not receiving a formal request for the survey by the Prime Minister, Singh could still follow up by an email the same day to keep it on record.